MEMORY: Travel Channel “Delicious Destinations: Trinidad & Tobago” (2017)

I started TriniGourmet in 2006 with the aim of sharing my love for my culture and cuisine not just with the world but also with the local population. I wanted to help elevate our understanding, conversations, and collective depictions so that we would understand what we had to be ‘cuisine’ not just ‘food’. Appearing in media outlets like The New York Times, or the Travel Channel, never seemed like possibilities at that time.

The derision when I started my effort only showed me how strongly this needed to be done. Let’s just say you wouldn’t believe the number of people who ‘killed themselves up with laughter’ saying mockingly “She gonna take picture of pelau and put it on the Internet!”

Why that was so funny still eludes me to this day.

Fast forward 11 years and I get the call (OK email, sheesh) to participate in the shooting of “Delicious Destinations: Trinidad & Tobago” for the Travel Channel. How things had changed by then. In that time, taking pictures of our food, posting our food, sharing our food, locally and internationally was now the norm. Taken for granted.

On the day of the shoot, I was nervous for many reasons. One, of course, was filming, but I was also in the middle of an auto-immune flareup and my face was puffy due to the medications that I take at those times. I felt far from camera-ready but the opportunity was too great for me to “call in sick”. Then, my ride never showed up. Because of my health I didn’t think I would be able to drive to the location, Chaud restaurant, and had asked a friend to take me. With less than 30 minutes to go and with him nowhere to be seen, I called. From the sound of his voice, I realised he had overslept. There was no way he could get ready in time to reach me and drop me at the location in time. My heart sank. I knew I would have to drive.

Shaking, I knew I had to get into the car right away if I had any chance of getting there in time. Which, I am happy to say I did. Shaken and wobbly, but on time!

Once there I realised that many other members of the local ‘food scene’ were also on-hand. You can spot them in the restaurant scenes as ‘patrons’. I was seated across from local artist Peter Sheppard and we were encouraged to interact as if we were on a date for B-Roll purposes. Hilarious! Each one of us was then interviewed in turn. It was interesting to see who was able to speak extemporaneously and confidently and who froze and became anxious. As someone with social anxiety my heart connected with those who visibly struggled.

When it was my turn to be interviewed I really don’t remember anything. I really just said what came to mind and tried to focus on getting my thoughts across without meandering or rambling. At one point, the producer, James Sorbel smiled and said “We’re going to close the show with that”. It was my callaloo comment and I didn’t really know what to make of it.

My time at PBS in the late 90’s had given me first-hand experience in how to interact with interviewees, especially inexperienced ones. The easy compliments and words of encouragement to calm a racing heart. Were my nerves that obvious? I tried not to put too much stock into his words and just told myself I had done my best, and had a lovely lunch as well!

I actually missed the first airings of the episode and didn’t know it had gone live until I was at an event one evening and got comments like “Ay girl, ah see yuh on the TV! Travel Channel!” What!?! I had made the cut? I couldn’t get home fast enough! The next airing was too far away for my liking so I texted my bestie in Miami who promptly streamed it “on-demand”, screen-recorded it and texted it back to me!

I had made the cut. And, true to his word, those comments did close the episode.

To go from being asked to leave establishments because my “point and shoot” marked me as a “spy” to sitting at home watching my face and voice broadcast to a global viewing audience, it was surreal. All I can say is that I was, and still am so so so grateful to the Travel Channel, and each and every one of you who have shared your words of support and encouragement with me through the years.

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